Book Review: Dr. Bernstein’s Diabetes Solution, newly revised and updated

The Complete Guide to Achieving Normal Blood Sugars,  R. K. Bernstein, MD.  2007  www.HachetteBooks.com.

Review by Wm Olkowski, PhD

This was the clincher for me to go to a low carbo diet.  The heart attack helped, but after reading Taubes I knew the low fat hypothesis was the wrong way for me.  Like alcoholics, we were addicted to sugars from added sucrose in our coffee and teas, fructose from honey, sucrose in candy bars, etc, and glucose from pasta, potatoes, rice and other grain products of all sorts.  We were following the USDA pyramid with some added sugars we excused, because of our high activity levels. We resolved more than three times to clean our diet and our bodies from sugars of all sorts, starting with our storage closet in the kitchen.  I kept finding more hidden jars of jams, jellies, preserves etc.  Just like an alcoholic hides a bottle as insurance, we did the same with our sugar sources.  Start reading the labels and try, just try to eat fewer than 10 grams of sugars from the foods you normally eat.  Fewer sugar calories will not kill you, but chronic ingestion of sugars (from any source) will lead to diabetes, a slow painful and debilitating death.  Diabetes is a precursor to many other maladies, certainly cardiovascular problems like stroke and heart disease.

That’s my conclusion now, but reading Dr. Bernstein’s story just gave me the clinical data I needed.  Bernstein was born with Diabetes I, with a poorly functioning pancreas that normally leads to death in youth.  His history starts back when insulin was first discovered and needed to be injected in large amounts.  This lead to lumps wherever it was injected.  He used this old system to make his way through college, gaining an engineering degree.  After graduation he got a job with a medical device company, which had just received early models of the glucose meter. This excited him to learn to use these devices to manage his own diabetes, which is a most interesting story, particularly if you are a diabetic now.  He describes his methods in detail.  And they go against the American Diabetes Association (ADA) recommendations.

However, the next part of the story is even more interesting.  Although he had managed his own diabetes with the new device, he could not interest MDs.  They didn’t believe patients could or should have a role to play in managing their conditions.  He became so frustrated he went back to school and got an MD degree and now is a highly respected practitioner, specializing in diabetes.  This story reinforces a view of a most power-holding, fossilized, money grubbing, medical profession (except for pioneers like Bernstein).

His approach to managing type II diabetes is to minimize eating glucose-containing foods.  Then, at the worst, one has only to use insulin as a supplement, if at all.  This goes against ADA and AMA advice.  His chapter on carbohydrates alone is worth the cost of the book, as few other health food books go to this depth.  But there is much more in this book, so that I reread it periodically and always find new stuff about supplements and exercise, for example.

List of Good Movies

by Bill Olkowski

We have a long list of previous great movies – mostly comedies, but I can’t find it right now.  But since Helga got part of her vision back about 6-8 months ago, we have started to again screen movies for hours on any one day.

There is no life without theater. But it has to be compelling and funny.  Most of what we have selected to look at on Netflix (regular and instant) does not make it past 15 minutes.  And to even start looking we have already screened out 80-95 percent of what is available.

We select mostly from comedies, British movies and actors, dramas that are not dark or about the break up of marriages or other catastrophes, including people dying.  Its not reality we seek, we have too much already.  We see lots of nature films, and a series or two made for TV (but no laugh tracks, which we find insulting).  And all the war documentaries, I have already seen or don’t wish to visit again, we skip.  We skip all political movies, fantasy or reality.  We are now on virtually a permanent vacation from the news.  We search for realistic fantasy for adults that has depictions of transformation, growth (significant), love in all its manifestations, great photography, good stories, well done with great actors.  No animation stories, no ghosts, etc., no junk science, or science fiction, no robots, aliens or monsters, human or otherwise.

Why are the studio types persisting in using death and dying as a feature or theme?  Are we so bereft of grief counseling that we need to relive someone else’s tragedies.  It’s a cheap device to illicit emotions, add that to your disgust list about current films.  So what follows is a recent, sanitized list.  The one movie that stands out even in such a highly selected group is Woody Allen’s “Whatever Works”.  It’s the best thing he has done, even better than “Deconstructing Harry”. This includes his recent movie: “You Will Meet a Tall Dark Stranger”, which is fun but not full of fun, like “Whatever Works”, which also has a strong social-political-psychological conclusion.

But subjectivism (is that a new word?), is widespread among one’s friends and never more so than in relation to movies.  So here is the latest top 10 (or so): How many do you agree with as being good?  How many can you add?

  1. I’ll Take You There – girl gets guy, or vice versa, seemed wild at first then cleared up and finally concluded with an “aha”.  I would select the girl who would take a bullet for me, wouldn’t you? Forget the other(s).  Or is it really the other way round and one can watch how it is done.
  2. The Golden Boys – the acting makes the story run and run, a beauty.  So that’s the way David Carridine and Rip Torn aged.  It’s easier on the men, at least on the exterior.  I didn’t see Mariel Hemingway beneath her glasses and outfit at first, but after a few scenes she shines out.  Retired sea captains want a wife, so they advertise and Mariel shows up, wow!!!  Will she select the right one? Why?  I like it when the romantic plot tells why the couples like each other, and stop pretending it’s so mysterious, its not all pheromones.
  3. Groundhog Day – still gets us after seeing it many many times.  The best thing Bill Murray has ever done.  Never see Andie McDowell anymore, what happened?
  4. Humboldt County – a male transformational drama, set in the context of raising MJ for profit or livelihood, that is the question.  The kid says it succinctly, “its better than beer”).  But alas the federales come when the growing place is beyond enough for a year for a family.  The sad thing is that MJ is illegal.  It’s the temperance movement repeated,  leading to armed criminals and police conflict.
  5. Gosford Park – Another repeat from our earlier list, but as a story and period recreation a great one.  The British class structure is there, as is the sorry place of female servitude in both upper and lower classes.  Another Altman gem.
  6. Dean Spanley – a weird story told well, but touching non-the-less, with good actors, but based on truly a theatrical device, or on an unrealized and undeveloped human ability?
  7. Outsourced – a cross-cultural bit (India-US, corporate world), but strong, and a love story.
  8. Who am I This Time? – a sweet sweet story with two great actors, the young Christopher Walken and Susan Sarandon.  And fun too.  Just saw it.
  9. The Extra Man – unusual lifestyles all interesting.  Watching Kevin Klein’s antics is always worth the view.
  10. Passions All Spent – an adult movie without any pornography.  For the older set. Finally, a real story with some passion for life’s true moments.
  11. Lovely Still – a tearjerker we stumbled into and it held our attention.  But watch out.
  12. Trixie – one long series of malaprops, in which Emily Watson tries to use, with expected results, all the fun over a murder mystery and unrequited love story. Emily is the private eye.  Listen carefully and the malaprops start right at the beginning.
  13. Great documentary: Engineering Rome, first disc shows how the Roman army crossed the Danube by building a wooden bridge from locally timbered logs, in something like five days, then after a brief romp in German territory, crosses over and pulls the bridge down.  A clear demonstration of power, without loosing a single soldier.
  14. Series: Downton Abbey is a Brit-recreation of the way it was, always great stuff.  Nothing still beats the Gilmore Girls, by the way.
  15. Great Nature Series – all narrated by David Attenborough, are the best, but there are many (see also Planet Earth).  The skeletal and muscular animations of animals in action are wonderful new additions to the naturalist toolkit, as are night vision cameras, and light weight aerial camera work.  The worldviews of different ecosystems and special wildlife are terrific, but alas no decent discussion of what natural controls and the balance of nature really mean.  The documentary “Evolution” disc 1 is a historical recreation mix with commentary, an unusual way to present a story.  The “Journey of Man” tells the recent human evolution story based on sciences of genetics, anthropology and archeology, a must see.
  16. Colombo – never saw it before but found the 7-season series light fun.  Motive, Means and Opportunity are the keys to all the stories.
  17. Bogie – as a documentary and historical recreation is marvelous, but too bad he had to die of smoking.  Lot’s I did not know about his wife. The only other biopic, that is better, is Chaplin, with a virtuoso performance by Robert Downey.
  18. We started Ken Burns’ series on the West but gave up half way.  The reoccurring theme of how we fucked over the native populations makes me sick to be a human and a US citizen.  How can one cover up the tragedies with bullshit.  We don’t criticize Ken Burns at all, after all he is telling the truth.  It’s just us.
  19. Also,  The Human Family Tree.

Book Review: Testosterone for Life, By A. Morgentaler, MD, 2009

Recharge your vitality, sex drive, muscle mass and overall health.www.mhprofessional.com

Review by Wm Olkowski, PhD, 3.2.11

Here is another radical book by a practicing M.D., this time a Harvard Medical School urologist.  The radical idea is to treat low testosterone, a most common occurrence with aging males, with supplemental testosterone.  Morgentaler is an expert on use of testosterone to treat “low T” as he calls it.  This idea, like many others in today’s more enlightened medical world, swims against the JAMA tide and the zeitgeist that treats low testosterone by lowering it still more.  Morgentaler was the usual urologist treating hundreds of men by lowering their testosterone levels once a test showed low testosterone.  Sounds weird, doesn’t it?

Apparently, mouse studies first showed that human male, biopsied tissues would grow tumors when stimulated by testosterone injections.  Later dogs with benign prostate enlargement (as with humans) were shown to have their prostates shrink when castrated.  So the urologists treated men the same way, after a biopsy showed prostate enlargement and tumor like growth. The result was to do the same with men, castrate them and use meds to lower “testo” further, a practice that continues today, unfortunately.  Supplementing with estrogens, for example, lowers T.  Ironically, the investigator who did this work, Charles B. Huggins, got a Nobel Prize for these discoveries, in 1966.  The prevailing wisdom became: to prevent prostate cancer due to low T, lower it further by castration and meds.  Now think of all those men who had biopsies and prostate cancer based on this erroneous idea.

Morgentaler’s awakening came about slowly.  At first he started to treat men with low T with testosterone.  Then he was warned by one of his teachers, who he respected, to stop treating men with low T, as the treatment would lead to prostate cancer.  Morgentaler then did what a scientist does: collect more information.  So he had his patients who showed low T get a biopsy, itself a gruesome procedure.  The very first man he had do this test showed prostate cancer even though all else was normal (i.e., a normal digital rectal exam and normal PSA).  This was strange since low T was thought to be protective.  He next did the same tests on 33 men with low T, and 6 had cancer, a high rate.  His report at a national urology conference resulted in having his work called “garbage”.

With a 50-man sample, he submitted a paper to the official organ of the American Medical Association for their journal, abbreviated JAMA.  The editors, who are the gatekeepers on the paradigms of medicine, rejected his paper saying the sample size was too small.  Finally at 77 men, 11 of whom had prostate cancer, the paper was published.  This 14% cancer rate was several times higher than any other report on men with normal PSA (4.0 ng/mL or less).  His conclusion at the time was that low T was not protective for prostate cancer.

Further studies compared two groups of men, all treated with “T therapy”, one (n=20) with then thought-to-be high risk with the “precancerous” condition called intraepithelial neoplasia (PIN), the other (n=55) with normal biopsy results.  After one year both groups showed modest increases in PSA, with only one man in the high-risk group (PIN) developing cancer.  That’s a rate of 1.3 %, compared to the then-known rate of 5%, after one year in men at high risk.  The known 3-year rate of men with high PIN risk was 25%.  Overall T therapy did not increase cancer rates, in fact, T therapy showed promise as a treatment. This was heresy.  Low T leads to prostate cancer is the most obvious conclusion.  He finally wrote a review paper in the New England Journal of Medicine (2004), after a year of literature examination.  That paper, which reviewed 15 long-term studies examining blood levels of hormones and cancer, and an additional six or so since, all showed no increase in cancer rates with high T levels.

All this points in the right direction, but something further adds more spice to this shocking story.  On one day with some free time, he went in search of the original articles published by Huggins.  And what he discovered:  “… changed my views on testosterone, prostate cancer, and even more on medicine itself”.  The original article (1941) WAS DONE WITH ONLY 3 MEN, BUT ONLY TWO WERE REPORTED, AND ONE WAS ALREADY CASTRATED.  SO, THE STUDY WAS BASED ON ONE PERSON.  And the results were developed with a blood test that has since been considered erratic.  Further examination of the literature showed results that continued the surprises.

One study of men with metastatic cancer treated with testosterone did not show any enhanced growth beyond what would have occurred without treatment.  Then another showed no relationship between blood levels and prostate levels with injected T and its metabolite DHT.  The biochemical markers of prostate growth did not change with injections of T nor DHT.  Finally, the situation was cleared up: at very low T levels, near the castration range, T injections caused prostate growth, but once above the prostate saturation levels, there was no growth.  So once saturation occurs (usually at low levels), there is no threat from further testosterone supplementation.  Further studies have confirmed these results.

This little book is a life changer for any man with the courage to buy (about $10), read and understand it.  Testosterone is important for all the cells of the body, not just the reproductive tissues.  And once you realize this fact and can learn to appreciate how changing T levels affect the aging male body, new hope for prevention of prostate cancer (and other maladies) and even its treatment with T therapy, will become common.  Maybe even Medicare will pay for supplemental hormones since it should reduce a great many other costs.

But using supplements is not a panacea.  The other barrier is the taboo one – discussing sexual performance.  Again this book is essential for any aging male (and can also be appreciated by any female).  I regularly buy extra copies and give them away to friends, but I fear many do not read nor understand how important this information can be in reducing pain and suffering.

I add this story to the low fat story, the diabetes story and to the statin story.  The case is building for a new massive change in health care, but how long will it take?